Our Boat Buying Process

The boat buying process seemed like a bit of a black box. We’ve hung out on the AGLCA forums for enough years to have a general idea, but didn’t really understand all the pieces. This blog post is to outline how the process went for us. Your mileage may vary.

Washburn, Wisconsin marina where our potential boat lived.

Background and Timeline

Background. We had established a relationship with a buyer’s broker, Michael Martin of Curtis Stokes & Associates, earlier in the year. You can read more about that here. When you see reference to “Michael”, it refers to our broker (as opposed to say, the archangel Michael, even though Michael was a huge blessing to us and the words “Lo, I am with you always” went through my head a time or two in relation to him!)

Timeline: May 6 to July 2, 2021 – from first inquiry to final sale.

On May 6, we emailed Michael to tell him of a boat we were interested in. (Linky to backstory on that).

Michael’s first response was “have you talked to your insurance broker to make sure you can get insurance on that boat?” The age of the boat (1999) was the main concern. The size of the boat was within the range of what the broker had told us earlier (within 15 feet of our previous boat).

About the time we had first connected with Michael in February 2021, he had suggested we call Jon Horton of Jack Martin & Associates insurance to see what size boat we would be eligible for. At that time we had given Jon an overview of the biggest boat we had owned (30′) and our boating experience.

While we double checked with Jon Horton now that we had a specific boat in mind, Michael contacted the selling broker, found out a bit about the condition of the boat, and let us know the boat was still available. He sent a spreadsheet of what same model boats had sold for in the past year. He also suggested a dollar range to offer, which was good, because we were prepared to offer the asking price. On his suggestion, we started a bit lower than that.

The Offer

Making the offer: We told Michael what amount we wanted our offer to be. He filled out an electronic purchase/sale agreement and sent a link for us to sign it electronically. That was May 10.

I was expecting to have to send my 10% down payment that day, like you would with earnest money when you buy a house. But it turns out you wait until the offer is accepted so you know what the 10% will be. Duh!

The offer had a list of critical dates:

  • Offer Date: May 10
  • Offer Expiration Date: May 13
  • Accept/Reject Date: June 18,
  • Closing Date: July 2

Because we were making an offer before seeing the actual boat, there was a special condition/contingency that we had until May 28 to personally inspect the boat.

Michael explained that we could reject the boat if we didn’t like it at the personal inspection or if the survey/sea trial didn’t turn out well, but that if we ultimately “accepted” the boat and after that decided to back out, we would forfeit our deposit.

We anxiously waited for May 13 to hear what the sellers’ counter offer would be…and it turned out the selling broker didn’t even give it to them until late on the 13th. We wrote a revised purchase/sale agreement with an offer expiration of May 15. Surprisingly, the seller accepted (and e-signed) the first offer. No negotiations needed.

When we had an accepted offer, Michael sent us information on how to wire the 10% deposit to the Curtis Stokes escrow account. We made a trip to the bank and sent the wire. When Curtis Stokes received the deposit, Michael e-signed to so attest and the purchase/sale agreement was considered “fully executed”.

The Physical Inspection

Physical inspection, May 21: We made a trip out to Wisconsin from Tacoma, WA to take a look at the boat. Michael Martin made the arrangements with the marina and met us there. He opened up all the nooks and crannies in the boat to take a look at everything. At the end of a couple of hours of crawling all over the boat, we all concurred that we didn’t see any deal breaking issues. Personal inspection contingency met. Check!

Checking out the boat. Looks good!

Michael explained that the next step would be for us to find surveyors. This boat was in a part of the country where Michael wasn’t familiar with any of the local surveyors. He suggested we contact local marinas and yacht clubs to get some recommendations. We spoke to the AGLCA harbor host who got a name from the marina and we did some internet research. It turns out that a lot of the surveyors in that area had retired, so one name kept coming up time after time. There was also a Cummins dealer nearby, so we contacted them for the engine survey.

Once we identified the surveyors, we gave Michael the information and he scheduled the surveys, both with the surveyors and with the marina for a haul-out. Now we wait and hope the weather will be good! You just never know with Lake Superior.


Survey Day, June 15: Weather was beautiful. Sun was shining with low wind and waves. When we arrived a few minutes early, both surveyors, Michael, and the sellers were there and the surveyors had already started. Selling broker didn’t attend.

Lots of eyes on the sea trial.

Sea trial happened pretty early in the day. Haul out happened afterwards. Engine surveyor left after the haul out but the boat surveyor spent a couple more hours crawling around the boat and poking and prodding. Surveyors gave verbal reports. Engines looked good. No blow by. Only some small things per boat surveyor. Oil samples were taken from both engines, transmissions and the generator.

Buyer’s broker Michael Martin taking lots of pictures

Michael encouraged the surveyor to expedite oil analyses to Friday the 18th as we were bumping up against the acceptance date. Surveyor couldn’t promise the lab could turn it around that fast but he would try.

The survey and oil analyses came in on the afternoon of June 18th. When the survey email came through, Michael texted us to ask when we could discuss it. We got on the phone and talked it over. He didn’t see any deal breakers in the survey or oil analysis. We agreed that we were good to go.

Hanging out with the sellers after the survey

Michael sent us links to the buyers’ acceptance document which needed to be e-signed that day, as per the dates outlined in the purchase/sale agreement.

The next day he sent links to buyers closing statement which also needed to be e-signed.  The buyers closing statement included the amount remaining to be paid, which we wired to buyer’s broker escrow account the next business day.

Connie Crews of All Yacht Documentation handled the closing and US Coast Guard documentation piece. Michael sent her some information. I called her to give her some other information, including what the new name of the boat will be. We opted for a five year documentation, rather than just one year. Connie sent a packet of paperwork which needed original signatures. The sellers got a similar set that needed original signatures. Included in packet was application for the USCG documentation, a limited power of attorney to let Connie’s team communicate with USCG on our behalf (notarized), and a letter saying that USCG documentation has been filed that we should keep on the boat. Also, this documentation may also be useful for when we go to the state to pay sales tax and register the boat.

The packet mentioned that insurance should be in place when closing occurred, so we reached back out to insurance broker Jon Horton and filled out the application he had sent earlier, when we had identified and boat and called to check on insurability.

We received an email from Michael asking for permission to release the funds when Connie said she had all the documents. Permission was given via email.

Note that we did not have any borrowing/financing transactions. If we had, there would undoubtedly be another section to read!

On July 2, we got a call from Michael congratulating us on our new to us boat! All funds had been dispersed. Sellers and brokers had their money and we owned a boat!

New to us boat! 1999 Bayliner 4087

We had asked Connie Crews about state registration, but she didn’t handle Wisconsin state business. I think if we had purchased the boat in a more usual Loop route state, she may have been able to handle it for us.

Since we were leaving the boat in Wisconsin, we decided to register and pay the sales tax there. At the advice of several Wisconsin residents we talked to, online was the only way to do it. I was able to pay the sales tax without any problem, but needed actual documentation from the Coast Guard to finish the registration. There is a 90 day grace period to get the documents to the state. I am advised that the Coast Guard is way behind schedule and I likely won’t get the documentation in time. I figure I’ll go online, explain the situation and get another 90 days.

Changing the transmission fluid, as advised in the survey.

In mid-July we spent a couple weeks on the boat to get acquainted. On Day 1, we had a two-hour face-time call with Captain Chris to go through the engine room, the helm, as well as some other mechanical things we needed to know about. We had provided our survey to him prior to the call for some context. We paid $80 per hour for his time and found it very helpful. We have a started a list of questions for next time.

I found Technomadia’s detail of the costs of buying their boat very helpful, so I’ll pay it forward by listing ours:

Purchase Price$88,000
Down payment 10%$  8,800
Remainder paid at closing$79,200
Engine Survey$    990
Boat Survey$ 1,115
Haul Out during survey$    523
Documentation fees to “All Yacht Documentation”$    900
Sales Tax$ 4,840
State Registration$    120
Ask Captain Chris consultation$    320
Acquisition Cost$97,828

Considering that from the beginning, we hoped to get a boat for no more than $100K, we are pretty happy with how it turned out.

I want to say a note about how valuable it was to have our buyer’s broker, Michael Martin, in our corner. We did not pay anything for his services; they came from the seller’s proceeds. You can see by the descriptions above that he made two trips to the wilds of northern Wisconsin. These trips are not cheap as both trips required flights, two nights in hotels and rental cars. When I started mentally penciling out how much he would actually clear on his commission on our boat, I don’t think it worked out great for him. But he was very gracious throughout, never making us feel that our older, less expensive boat was a lower priority than some of the more lucrative deals he was working on. I highly recommend buyer’s brokers in general, and Michael Martin in particular.

2 Replies to “Our Boat Buying Process”

  1. This was super helpful. Thank you for the blow by blow detail.
    One question, was your insurance agent/company someone you’ve done business with previously or where they new?

    1. Hi Paul,
      We had not done business with Jon Horton of Jack Martin Insurance before, but a few months earlier we had spoken with him and given him our information, just to see what range of boat we would be eligible for, in terms of insurance. When it was time to make the offer, we called him back and gave him the specifics of the boat. He put it out to the various insurance agencies (underwriters?) and Progressive came back as one who would write the policy. He sent us an application at that time. Once we had accepted the boat (after the survey) we sent in the application. It only took a day or so, at that point, for the policy to be issued. Hope that helps. (Maybe I’ll add this info to the post.)

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